ewein2412: (once I was a scholar)
[personal profile] ewein2412
looking out

It’s the end of Day 2 of this five-day seminar I’m attending, the ‘Eighth European Summer School at Ravensbrück.’ I have often noted to myself how writing about something as it’s happening seems to give it more validity, somehow, than writing about it after the fact, and part of the reason I’m here is to validate my own intentions, my understanding, my authority, my ability as an author. So, I’m validating. I hope.

I am writing this, and posting it, from one of the former female SS guards’ barracks, which is now a youth hostel, and a very nice one too. The youth hostel is outside the camp walls, in case you are wondering. I have 3 roommates, all German students, intense and enthusiastic and exuberant—as are all the student participants, making me a bit envious and nostalgic about being a student. Hum.

I have two ironies I want to share: the food here is astonishingly good, and the memorial site is completely… how shall I put this—unguarded? There are no gates, there are no ‘hours’. Because I am here, I can come and go freely in and out of the camp itself—but anyone could; you wouldn’t have to be staying here. So on several occasions (because I am mad) I have had the entire camp to myself.

The sky was so tremendously glorious tonight, with high altocirrus clouds just barely covering a waxing and gibbous moon, and the translators had gone home because it was so late by the time we finished watching the ‘Women of Ravensbrück’ film so I couldn’t join in the discussion, so I just went through the gates on my own and looked at the sky. It is the same sky.

What makes it different, being in a place at night? Partly, I think, it feels a bit illicit. But being in such a place at night? Alone? It is intense, but not frightening. There are crickets here, which there aren’t in Scotland, and I love the sound of noisy nighttime bugs in summer. It is a very quiet place, apart from the bugs, and an empty place. A clean place. Turning it into a memorial has purified it.

But the intensity makes me feel as though, like Sophie in The Freedom Maze or Hannah in The Devil’s Arithmetic, when I blink I will open my eyes and be trapped there and the only thing I’ll recognize is the sky.


Date: 2012-08-28 09:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sartorias.livejournal.com

Some things to think about here. (I have strong ambivalence about a memorial purifying such a place, though I am very, very glad it is there.)

Date: 2012-08-29 06:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sartorias.livejournal.com
That makes total sense.

Date: 2012-08-28 10:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] deliasherman.livejournal.com
What a lovely post. What wonderful photos. Did you float the roses? They seem so . . . integral.

Yeah, getting trapped in the Good Old Days. No wonder all the plots of Connie Willis's time travel novels are haunted by the specter of being stuck in the past. It wasn't a very nice place, really.

Date: 2012-08-28 10:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tiboribi.livejournal.com
I...just...wow. I don't think I could stay there. Even though the pictures look almost peaceful.

I love the roses floating on the water.

Date: 2012-08-29 01:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] camille-is-here.livejournal.com
Terrifying. Just terrifying.

Date: 2012-08-29 09:09 am (UTC)
ext_6284: Estara Swanberg, made by Thao (Default)
From: [identity profile] estara.livejournal.com
This arouses a mix of reactions in me, which you are getting unfiltered here:

You're in Germany, so why aren't you visiting me? Then again it is a day-long train ride even just to Nuremberg which has a lot of buildings left from its time when Hitler was planning to turn it into the new capital.
Why can't those German students include you in discussions even when the translator is gone, we have mandatory English from 5th grade to the end of our time in secondary schools, they should bloody well make an effort.
How come you're surprised that the food is good, German food may not be light on the stomach traditionally but it's always plentiful and tasty (lots of sour cream and fat involved in the traditional cuisine most often).
Interesting to hear that you can be alone in that camp easily. I'm not sure about the evenings, but during the day Dachau is always full of pupils and visitors (every Bavarian pupil has to visit once during their time at school - usually 9th grade, which is when history teaching covers World War I and 2). They did keep the fences around the main area and along one wall the full experience as it would have been during the 30s and 40s, so I guess you can't go there after nightfall.

Also: I hope you feel validated by posting, but from where I stand your work itself validates you as an author and it does that beautifully ^^. I did notice how many of the reviews enjoyed your Author's Afterword with the exploration of the historical sources and what you had done with them, etc. so this visit will surely be as appreciated as your visiting of the air plane museums, etc.
Edited Date: 2012-08-29 09:14 am (UTC)

Date: 2012-08-29 07:28 pm (UTC)
ext_6284: Estara Swanberg, made by Thao (Default)
From: [identity profile] estara.livejournal.com
Okay, a gourmet reception is NOT your average German local food, heh. I can see the mental disconnect there.

Aww - you know when I'm totally honest with you and myself, I could just as well sit myself in a train (if I had the money to spare, because we do have summer holidays in Bavaria still) and visit you for a few hours, but I dread the long ride - seems like 10 to 14 hours depending - (and the high train fees) involved myself. More likely that'll do a trip to Scotland at some point and check beforehand whether I can meet you for a bit in Perth. So please don't take my ragging seriously and feel bad about it.

Date: 2013-01-25 02:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] blog.sarahlaurence.com (from livejournal.com)
An SS guard barrack has become a youth hostile? I don’t think I could sleep there. How ironic to have good food and beautiful sunsets. Your book will be more authentic for this visit. I admire your dedication.

Looking back... and ahead

Date: 2015-06-24 06:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] darla nine (from livejournal.com)
I read Code Name Verity from our local (small) library and then it was never returned shortly after. No budget for replacements. No book 2 or more from the series to borrow. There has been an increase in stories about WWII of which I've read three in the past year. While sharing thoughts on All the Light We Cannot See, I suggested the group read Code Name Verity. We looked up this website and here I am writing a comment to let you know we are here now with you. It's been a few years since you posted this in particular, but the reach to readers and seekers of great stories is timeless.

PS Our library is now part of a consortium that allows us to borrow from 106 other libraries. I predict readership of your novels in our Indiana prairie will increase!


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